3:50 p.m. ET: As the counting goes on in the razor-tight special election in New York's 20th district, debate continues on whether the contest really was or wasn't a referendum on President Obama and his policies.
It's tough to draw too many firm conclusions from this race, given the unusual turnout and attention that always go along with a special election. But there's no doubt that looking ahead to 2010's midterm elections, Democrats believe their fates are directly linked to Obama's. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said as much today.
"We think our prospects are very much tied to how the president is doing and how the American people perceive him," Van Hollen told reporters.
It makes sense for Van Hollen to say that now, as Obama's approval rating remains over 60 percent. Where will that rating be 18 months from now, and will it be high enough to enable Democrats to escape the historical pattern that nearly always punishes the party of a first-term president? Start the election countdown now.
8:30 a.m. ET: No, this is not an April Fools joke. Nina Totenberg of NPR breaks a bombshell this morning: The Justice Department is dropping all charges against Ted Stevens after a prosecution plagued with errors and accusations of misconduct. Totenberg reports that Eric Holder was disgusted by the mistakes and wanted to send a clear message to government prosecutors that such conduct would not be tolerated.
Now, will Stevens sue? It seems like a legitimate question, given that he's already lost his Senate seat and shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees on his defense. Stay tuned for more updates today.
8 a.m. ET: President Obama has already begun trying to save the U.S. financial system and housing industry, and is laying the groundwork to reshape the nation's health care. So how much harder could it be for him to bring the whole world together behind a plan to fix the global economy?
Speaking from London this morning, Obama predicted "enormous consensus" from the G-20 meeting about the need to work together in this time of crisis. Given events in the world, consensus of any kind seems like a tall order. France and Germany are teaming up to counter the U.S. and Britain with their own set of reform proposals. Russia and China want the dollar replaced as the world's reserve currency. Outside the summit, North Korea says it will shoot down U.S. planes monitoring its missile launch. And the administration has had it's first (brief) face-to-face meeting with Iran. Obama has talked often of his ability to multitask, so now he's got another chance to prove it.
Obama has already met with Gordon Brown this morning and done a joint media appearance with the British prime minister. Obama is meeting with Dmitry Medvedev at this writing. (If either of them follows the Political Browser Twitter feed, they will be able to pause and read this post. Good luck, comrades!) The two men are expected to announce an agreement on "principles for cooperation" between the two countries. Later on, the president and first lady will have a private audience with Queen Elizabeth II. The couple has reportedly been briefed on proper palace etiquette and so know not to wink at Her Majesty or do anything else embarrassingly American.
On this side of the Atlantic, the most interesting political story is unfolding in upstate New York, where the special election to replace Kirsten Gillibrand in the House is currently too close to call. Democrat Scott Murphy leads Republican Jim Tedisco by just 65 votes, with more than 10,000 absentee ballots still to be counted. Perhaps we should just skip immediately to a painful and contentious, Minnesota-style fight. Just after midnight, the NRCC sent out an email to donors titled: "Don't Let 'Em Pull a Franken." It warned that "Democrats have almost succeeded in stealing the election in Minnesota and seating Al Franken" and the same thing should not be allowed to happen in New York. You can expect plenty more rhetoric like that before this contest is over. (By the way, Minnesota may actually be over soon. Or not.)
Lest you thought the days of Obama nominees running into tax trouble were over, they're not. Kathleen Sebelius has paid more than $7,000 in back taxes after discovering "uninentional errors" on three years worth of returns. There is no evidence at this point that the issue will hinder her nomination; maybe we've all just become immune to tax problems. The road could be a little rougher for Dawn Johnsen, Obama's pick to run the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel who may face a filibuster from Senate Republicans.
The House and Senate GOP will gather together this morning to brag about what they agree on -- they don't like Obama's budget. But the two groups haven't actually agreed on a budget plan of their own. The Senate minority decided not to bother with one, though House Republicans do finally have a blueprint that they will lay out today. Come to think of it, France doesn't much like Obama's spending plans either. So that's today's headline -- France and Republicans agree.
April 1, 2009; 3:55 PM ET
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